Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from J[ohn] C[arroll], 18 January 1778: résumé

From J[ohn] C[arroll5]

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Maryland, Rock Creek near George Town,
Jan: 18 1778

My dear and venerable friend

Will you allow your fellow traveller to and from Canada to take the opportunity of a vessel sailing from his neighbourhood to renew his assurances of esteem and respects, and to congratulate you on the recovery of your health, which I have the pleasure to hear is now in a good state, after all your labours and fatigues? It is a great pleasure to me to reflect; that whilst you are employed by your country in so honourable and important a station, you are out of the way of suffering many inconvenicies ill suited to your age; and now enjoy a pleasurable communication with men of the first character in every respect, and such as can both give you pleasure, and relish that which you can return. I have seen in a Leyden Gazette some pretty French verses, Le voila ce mortel &c., written under your picture: I see by this, and many other things that you are much in mode at Paris; and as that is said to be every thing there, it is a good prognostick of your political success. To tell you the truth, we begin to be a little out of humour at the delay of the Bourbon Princes in taking some decisive measures: and I am very well convinced that if they procrastinate much longer, every word of a letter in the supplement to the Leyden Gazette of June 14th, 1777, the author of which I could venture to swear to, will certainly come to pass.6 If the vessel which carries this goes safe to France, she will carry the melancholy news of poor Mr. Pliarnes death. He left this house, where I live with my Brother, the 6th. instant, and went over the next day to Alexandria. He was coming back across Potomack the same evening, when he fell out of the boat, as he was sitting in an unguarded posture, and was most unfortunately drowned. Such is the account given by the Ferrymen: But it is now said that some circumstances raise suspicions to the prejudice of these men, and I hear just now that they are taken up and put in irons. My Brother has been at Alexandria ever since to pursue this matter: notwithstanding all endeavours hitherto used, his body is not yet found. You cannot conceive the universal grief occasioned by this most unfortunate accident. He had endeared himself in a most extraordinary manner to all his acquaintance. Not only his friends, but I fear that the American states will feel his Loss. I hear that his house have sent several valuable cargoes for the use of the army and publick.7

Genl. Schuyler’s two eldest daughters have been married for some time; but I have not heard that the wild Miss Peggy has found a match to her liking yet.8 I mention this, because I am well convinced you cannot but interest yourself in the concerns of that most amiable and hospitable family. We universally think here that the Genl. was cruelly used in being superseded in his command to the Northward. The assigned cause was no more than a pretext: the real one was that he was not the favourite of a great part of the forces which were to compose that army. But I suppose you have better and more authentick accounts of all these matters. Our fellow traveller my Cousin is now at Congress: I have not seen Chace since we parted in Canada.

As I make no doubt but every man of letters in Paris is desirous of being introduced to you, perhaps you may have seen a very amiable and modest man L’abbé Brotier, an Ex-Jesuite, editor of a fine edition of Tacitus and author of some other performances, which recommended him much to the litterary world. When I was at Paris, he was proposing to publish from an original copy the correspondance of the Marquis of Torcy.9 If you either have, or should get acquainted with this valuable man, shall I beg of you the favour to assure him of my remembrance and affection? I have likewise to request of you to take care of and forward by the opportunities, which you will know of, any letters which may be recommended to you by some friends in Flanders, whom I have taken the liberty to direct to send them by that way. You are undoubtedly happy in the Society of many agreeable persons and in the enjoyments furnished by a fine civilized country: but I still flatter myself that you will once again revisit this Western world. If you do, there will then be here a new order of things, a new combination of ideas and pursuits; indeed it will be truly the new world. You will be received with transport, and I hope I shall be one of the many to welcome your return. In the mean time I remain, My Dear Sir, Your truly affectionate respectful friend

J. C.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Identified by the handwriting and subject matter. The Jesuit Father Carroll, his cousin Charles, and Samuel Chase had been BF’s companions on the mission to Canada in 1776.

6Carroll mistook the date. The Gaz. de Leyde, sup., of June 24, 1777, carried a long extract of a letter about the possibilities of an Anglo-American rapprochement and, resulting from it, Britain’s rise to mastery of the world. The extract, translated from Deane to Dumas of June 7, is printed in the Deane Papers, II, 66–9.

7Emmanuel de Pliarne, Penet’s partner, appeared frequently in vol. XXII, and has been mentioned in subsequent volumes. “This French gentleman’s engaging manners, and warm attachment to the liberties of this country, had procured him many friends in every part of the United States, during upwards of two years residence in them.” Pa. Gaz., Jan. 24, 1778.

8The eldest daughter, Angelica, had married the previous June over her father’s strenuous objection; her two sisters, who had helped entertain BF and his party on the way to Canada (above, XXII, 414 n) were still unwed. Elizabeth (Betsy) married Alexander Hamilton in 1780, and Margarita (Peggy) married Stephen Van Rensselaer in 1783. Benson J. Lossing, The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler (2 vols., New York, 1872–73), II, 206–7, 432 n; DAB under Van Rensselaer.

9Gabriel Brotier, librarian of the Collège Louis-le-Grand, was a prolific editor and writer on many subjects. His edition of Tacitus, which filled in lost passages in the surviving Latin text, was widely esteemed. Larousse. As far as we know he did not carry through his plan of editing the papers of the marquis de Torcy, a foreign minister under Louis XIV.

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